And it's not only waterfront towns like Jersey City and its equally popular neighbor, Hoboken, where major projects began construction last year. Even in landlocked Union City, development companies were constructing luxury condos in order to reach out to young professional New York commuters who don't want to pay sky-high Manhattan prices - but who still want the easy commute and a much better view of the Hudson River from the Jersey side.
Developer Michael Chetrit is so excited about Union City's residential prospects that he's holding a contest for his current tenants.
"We're running a raffle called 'Name My Next Building,' and the winner gets an upgrade," said Chetrit, director of the Park Hudson Group, last month. By 2008, the group expects to have completed six condominium projects in the Union City area.
As Chetrit put it, "This is not your grandfather's Union City."
Park Hudson's second luxury condo project in that town, currently unnamed, began construction at 4301 Park Ave. last January. With 70 condominiums and two floors of parking, it's expected to open this coming summer.
Here are some other projects underway in Union City:
In July, the Union City Zoning Board of Adjustment approved zoning variances to allow construction of a 108-unit condominium complex on Summit Avenue.The complex is to be built by Carlos Crespo Developers.
In late October, 14 condos in a five-floor building called "Park West on 37" on 37th Street opened for sale. The building is a project of the Arslanian Group. That group is also building a 12-unit project at Summit and Central Avenues.
Of course, the great lure of Hudson County is its proximity to the waterfront, and just south of Union City, projects are popping up in Jersey City, Weehawken and Hoboken
Jersey City residential
A significant number of new residential towers, rehabilitated factories, and redevelopment areas are already under way in formerly blighted regions of town.
For instance, the former site of the Jersey City Medical Center will see 1,200 condominiums. And an 80-acre area on the northern waterfront is under years of construction that will turn it into a new neighborhood with 10,000 residential units.
In brief, here are some of the projects in Jersey City already under construction:
Liberty Harbor North is an 80-acre community stretching from Grand Street to the Morris Canal overlooking Liberty State Park. When the project is completed in next five to 10 years, it will include 10,000 residential units and five million square feet of retail and office space. The first 215 units went on sale in October.
The Beacon, a $350 million, 1,200-unit condominium project, is being built on the site of the old Jersey City Medical Center at Baldwin Avenue and Montgomery Street. The first condos could be available for purchase in 2007.
Trump Plaza: Jersey City, a $415 million condominium project with a 55-story tower housing 445 condo units and a 50-story tower with 417 units. Construction began in September 2005 and continued into 2006, with occupancy scheduled to begin in November 2007.
Columbus Plaza, a project on Columbus Drive and Warren Street, will ultimately contain 1,150 units of housing. Phase I will be completed in early 2007, including a 35-story tower with 392 residences, a 1,120-car parking garage, 27,000 square feet of ground floor retail, eight townhouses, and a new on-site entrance to the Grove Street PATH subway station.
Grove Pointe, on Newark Avenue between Grove Street and Marin Boulevard, is a 29-story building that will contain 525 luxury residential units, 67 condominiums, and 458 rental apartments. The apartments are expected to be completed late next year.
This project will also include the revamping of a one-block section of Newark Avenue and the triangular park area at the entrance to the Grove Street PATH station.
77 Hudson St. broke ground this year. Its two 500-foot skyscrapers will be located at the corner of Hudson and Sussex Streets. One tower will hold 420 condominiums to be sold by K. Hovnanian, and the other will hold 481 apartments operated by Equity Residential.
Equity Residential is expected to rent out the apartments during the winter of 2008 and K. Hovnanian is expected to have the condos occupied during the spring of 2009.
These projects received approval in 2006 from the Planning Board:
The Metropolitan, a 67-story building, was approved in October to be built on the site of a Pep Boys Automotive store near Newport Center Mall. The 755-foot tower, when completed, will have 809 residential units with 817 parking spaces.
The Grover Cleveland and the Ulysses S. Grant were approved in December, two towers with 326 units with the same number of parking spaces, on Tenth Street. The project will be built by Newport Development Associates, with construction to start in six to nine months.
In December, the Jersey City Planning Board approved a $350-plus million, two-tower project of 52 and 46 stories respectively in Journal Square near the PATH Transportation Center that will see over 1,000 condominium units, about 150,000 square feet of retail and over 800 parking spaces. The project's construction is to take place starting late next year.
Jersey City commercial
There were two major commercial projects in Jersey City that received approval for construction in the past year from the Planning Board.
Home Depot - In January, the board approved a Home Depot to be built near the Holland Tunnel. It will be a five-story building with 471 parking spaces, situated on a 3.3-acre site surrounded by 12th Street, 14th Street, Manila Avenue, and Marin Boulevard. Site work is currently taking place.
New Goldman Sachs building - The Jersey City Planning Board in September approved a 30-story office tower to be built at 50 Hudson St. by the financial firm Goldman Sachs. They also approved a public plaza between that new building and Goldman Sachs' existing 30 Hudson St. building.
The new building will be approximately 500 feet high, with 918,956 square feet including 21,380 sq. ft. of retail.
Leases - Corporate tenants are also expanding their presence at the Jersey City waterfront. In December, Merrill Lynch & Co. extended its lease at 101 Hudson St. to 236,350 square feet. Other recent major leases on the waterfront included a 350,000 square-foot lease by Citigroup at Newport Office Center VII and a 300,000 square-foot lease by Deutsche Bank at Harborside Plaza 1. Last month E-Trade Financial Corp. leased more than 106,500 square feet at Mack-Cali's Harborside Financial Center.
The nationally dominant development company Toll Brothers, based in Pennsylvania, created a "City Living" division in Hoboken several years ago primarily to focus on condos for the young, urban commuter. Last year, they continued major development projects in formerly industrial areas all over the mile-square city.
The company is continuing to redevelop the series of factories at Hoboken's northern border, near Weehawken. It had already purchased the main building - the "Hudson Tea" building - from the previous developers, BDLJ. The building is a former Lipton Tea factory whose condos are now home to Gov. Jon Corzine and prominent athletic figures. That building will soon be joined by several others.
One is the Harborside Lofts at Hudson Tea on 15th Street. The Harborside Lofts will feature 13-plus foot ceilings, a 24-hour concierge, a fitness center, park space, a children's playground, and a shuttle to the train terminal at the city's southern end.
The 116 condo lofts will open next summer. They will also come with a 1,250-car parking garage, which is scheduled to open as early as this January.
In addition, Toll Brothers continued another prominent redevelopment project in Hoboken, the 832-unit residential "Maxwell Place" development. Located on Hoboken's central waterfront, the former Maxwell House factory welcomed its first new tenants this month.
And on the western part of town, away from the project, are two other recent Toll Brothers projects: The 324-unit Sky Club on Marshall Drive, which completed construction in 2005, and the 230-unit 700 Grove St. project that is actually just over the Jersey City border, with construction ongoing. Toll Brothers plans for some of the units to be occupied starting this January.
In terms of other developers in town, the Applied Companies recently completed The Sovereign, a 250-unit residential project on the Hudson River at 14th Street. Applied, a longtime developer in Hoboken is responsible for major luxury projects in existence on both the southern and northern waterfronts.
In more unusual projects, the Garden Street Lofts at 14th and Garden streets, which are being developed by Teaneck-based Bijou Properties LLC, are slated to include 30 "green" loft-style units and 8,300 square feet of ground floor retail at the site of the vacant 80-year-old warehouse. According to developer Larry Bijou, the project will be completed in the next 14 months.
Bijou has also converted a former Hostess Cupcake factory on 14th Street and Park Avenue into retail and commercial space. The approximately 100-year-old brick building has been restored and will be home to a 14,000 square-foot CVS drugstore, a 25,000 square-foot New York Sports Club, and a branch of Washington Mutual Bank.
Perhaps one of the most exciting commercial projects planned for Hoboken is by the Applied Development Company.
It's the city's first luxury hotel, the 25-story W hotel, to rise between Second and Third streets on River Street. The hotel will open for business in summer 2008. It will include 225 rooms and 38 luxury condominium residences.
West New York
Further north on the Hudson River waterfront, several condo projects in West New York were under construction in 2006.
Among those completed and opened for occupancy this past year were the 300-unit Grandview II at Riverwalk and Four Seasons at Imperial Walk, both luxury condo projects built by national home builders K. Hovnanian.
And November, ground was broken on two affordable housing projects - the 70-unit 52nd Street Homes (63 of which will affordable) on 52nd Street and the Kennedy Tower II on 62nd Street, with all 70 units affordable. Both projects are projected for completion for 2008.
North Bergen has seen a boom in retail-based construction in recent years and that continued in 2006.
Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen has become a commercial hotbed recently. A new National Wholesale Liquidators store opened last month in the Tonnelle Plaza shopping center, which is bound to give that struggling area a shot in the arm.
National stores Target and Lowe's Home Improvement continue to flourish in their relatively new locations on Tonnelle Avenue.
A Home Depot in that area will be completed in February.
And just off Tonnelle Avenue, preliminary construction has begun on a $90 million, 465,000 square-foot shopping center between 85th and 91st streets at the site of the old township municipal pool complex. It will include two giant retail stores that have yet to be determined, as well as six smaller stores, a bank, a restaurant, and parking for more than 2,000 vehicles.
On the residential front, there are at least three major developments currently under construction in North Bergen along the Hudson River waterfront. One, called the Views at Hudson Pointe, being built by real estate conglomerate K. Hovnanian, is getting closer to completion. It features 146 luxury condominium units with luxury amenities (health club, pool, concierge services). The units are being sold at approximately $600,000 each, with some of the units priced at over $1 million.
There are two other luxury complexes under construction along River Road. One is a 12-story high-rise luxury apartment building that is still in the early stages of construction. Another is a complex of one and two family units at the site of the old Sier-Bath gear factory in northern North Bergen that is partially ready for occupancy. That project is called Insignia Gardens.
North Bergen officials believe that when the commercial and residential developments are completed by 2009, the tax ratable base will increase by an estimated $200 million.
Changes were made this past year to the Secaucus Transit Village Redevelopment Plan that governs development around the Secaucus Junction train station.
The changes would allow an increase in the number of allowable market-rate residential units, from 1,935 to 1,955. The number of affordable housing units will climb from 225 to 235, and there will be a four-story height increase for some of the buildings.
Since July, there has been construction with first few hundred units to open in the summer of 2007.
The commercial development projects at the nearby Meadowlands athletic complex always have an impact on Secaucus' traffic, stores and residences.
There were some expected changes to the proposed $2 billion Xanadu entertainment and retail complex in East Rutherford. Past plans for the complex predicted a mall, a minor league baseball stadium, an indoor ski slope, and a trout stream. Due to financial concerns for the developer, the Mills Corporation, the New Jersey Sports Authority (NJSEA) announced in November that control of the project would go from the Mills Corp. to a Los Angeles-based equity firm, Colony Capital Acquisitions.
Construction continues on a series of luxury developments that stretches for nearly two miles along the Hudson River. The Port Imperial development (including Port Imperial North and Port Imperial South), developed by Roseland Properties, is under construction in Weehawken and has become occupied in West New York within the last two years.
In the Weehawken portion, the larger brownstones are presently under construction, as is the township's 18.1-acre recreational park that will be built alongside the development. The commercial side of the Port Imperial project still has not been finalized and there is not yet a timetable for its development.
Hartz Mountain Industries has made preliminary strides to finally complete its development adjacent to the UBS Financial Services headquarters building on Harbor Boulevard on the waterfront. Hartz received approval for the second and third phases of its development more than a decade ago and has been waiting for the right time to continue the project. It has already constructed a parking deck that will enable Hartz to develop the existing parking lot for commercial and residential use.
The other development in Weehawken is the completion of Riva Pointe, a pier of mostly-completed condos that juts into the Hudson River. The 65 new units are just about finished and ready for occupancy, along with a passive waterfront park at the tip of the development. The grand opening of the Riva Pointe completion is slated for late February/early March.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com
As Chetrit put it, "This is not your grandfather's Union City."